For the third time in two weeks an explosion occurred on the Sangachal-Kazi Magomed gas pipeline 50 km south from Baku on January 10, raising serious concerns about the safety of the pipeline.
The incident took place towards 21:00, after which a fire broke out. The State Fire Protection Service of the Ministry of Emergency Situations intervened and the fire was extinguished. No casualties were recorded.
The other two explosions occurred on December 27 and on January 2 respectively.
An investigation is underway and the causes of the three blasts have yet to be clarified. Although all options are still open, it seems unlikely that a terror attack or a sabotage is the cause. As of now, the most likely hypothesis is linked to technical problems.
SOCAR has stated that the reason behind the incident may lie in poor-quality renovation work.
“Among the possible causes of the accident there are either poor-quality welding or pipe materials”, Radio Azadliq reported
The Chairman of the Committee for Oil Industry Worker’s Rights Protection shares the same view. “Why should there be explosion on a line drawn 14 years ago? It seems to me that it is connected with the welding seams. Problems with welds tend to appear throughout the years.”
The Sangachal – Kazi Magomed pipeline was built in 2006 with the aim of improving the Shah Deniz gas delivery system to the Azerbaijani national grid. In addition, it serves storage purposes. The pipeline is owned and managed by SOCAR, the Azerbaijan state-owned national oil company and it exports gas from the Sangachal Terminal, which is operated by BP.
SOCAR is not new to such incidents. According to oilandgaspeople.com, 14 SOCAR workers were killed in 2014 and 34 in 2015 in several different incidents. During the same period, the UK Oil Industry has recorded only 2 casualties among its workers.
Ilham Ismail, the Head of the Security Centre of Investigation, says that the reason behind the three consecutive explosion lies in damage that had not been fixed.
“Simply, somewhere there is a gap that they cannot fix. For this reason, in the same place repeated explosions have occurred. There could be explosions close to settlements. Or someone could commit a terrorist act, and call it an accident. It is therefore necessary to be vigilant”, he added.
SOCAR will operate the Azerbaijani portion of the TANAP pipeline (Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline) which is expected to finish by 2018, delivering gas from Azerbaijan to Europe through Turkey.